Friday, 7 December 2007

"Best Kept Secret" - "Bare" the musical


Approximately three years ago I was surfing the web and read that I could go to a particular web page and download ten tracks from the, then current, Off Broadway musical “Bare”. I knew absolutely nothing about the show but found myself bowled over by these energetic and compelling songs and was determined to find out more. I then discovered a site on the show and also set about telling friends to download the free tracks. Everyone was hooked!

With music by Damon Intrabartolo and lyrics by Jon Hartmere Jr, work began on “Bare, A Pop Opera” (as it was initially titled) in 1987 culminating in a successful Los Angeles run in 2000-2001. 2004 saw a short run off Broadway. A proposed full length cast album was cancelled and that should have been the end of the story, but a dedicated and loyal following had emerged and they weren’t going to let “Bare” die. The people who had worked on the show since the beginning were determined to at least get an album out. So this week my “Deluxe Edition” of the cast album of “Bare” arrived through the post, and I am pleased to say that my expectations have been more than met. What’s more I now know what it’s all about too!

The action takes place in an American Catholic boarding school between Epiphany and graduation of their senior year. At the forefront of the drama are gay students Peter Simonds and Jason McConnell whose struggles as they deal with their relationship take up much of the plot. Other principal characters include the most popular student, Ivy, her sometime boyfriend Matt, and Jasons overweight and lonely sister Nadia. Also featured is earth mother Sister Chantelle, whose school production of “Romeo And Juliet” provides a thread that runs throughout the show. During the shows two hours a whole plethora of teenage issues are explored such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancies and the isolation and loneliness of some of the characters. Peter’s longing to be open is often at odds with Jason’s desire to keep their relationship quiet, and both of them struggle to find answers or acceptance within their faith. Although many of the shows themes are pretty serious there is plenty of comedy throughout the show so you do get an opportunity for a few laughs as it hurtles towards its tragic conclusion. By the way, if you are wondering, yes there is also a parallel with “Romeo And Juliet” to be found in the show.

Of course the aspect of the show that grabbed my attention more than anything was the music. The score has a real modern Broadway sound. If you like “Rent”, “Spring Awakening” or the music of Jason Robert Brown I suspect you will find much to enjoy. The frustrations of Peter and Jason’s relationship are brilliantly portrayed in “You And I” and the later “Best Kept Secret” and “Bare” illustrate other aspects of their romance equally effectively. Nadia’s two big numbers, the comedic “Plain Jane Fat Ass” and “Quiet Night At Home” ” provide a humorous and tender view of her isolation and loneliness as the schools “fat girl”, and Ivy’s “Portrait Of A Girl” and “Touch My Soul” are equally revealing about her character, showing that despite being the girl with the looks and the admirers she is often equally lonely. “Are You There” is a fantastic soul searching number where Matt and Peter ask God for answers. Other highlights include Sister Chantelle’s “God Don’t Make No Trash” where she asserts that “there’s a black woman inside the soul of every gay man” . Best of all are “See Me” and “Warning” . “See Me” is Peter’s heartbreaking attempt to tell his mother about his sexuality as she determinedly keeps the subject on almost everything but. “Warning” is the emotionally devastating response of his mother as she comments on what Peter has been trying to tell her, which despite her knowing all along still comes as a shock.

I should of course mention the casting of the recording too. It combines cast members from the Broadway cast (Kaitlyn Hopkins as Peter’s mother), the LA cast (Kelli Lefkovitz as Nadia, Stephanie Anderson as Sister Chantelle) with Matt Doyle and James Snyder, who weren’t in either production, as the two leads. Special mention should be made of Jenna Leigh Green as she played Ivy in both productions. They all sound great and, I am sure, we will hear much more of them in time to come.

Now it’s difficult to get people enthused about music without letting them hear it, but in this instance I can point you in the right direction to do just that.
MySpace finds various opportunities to catch some of the songs

http://www.myspace.com/barethemusical is the official mysapce page – but doesn’t feature any songs

http://www.myspace.com/barethealbum is the official page for the album which does, as does the fan site
http://www.myspace.com/barepop

http://www.barethealbum.com/ is the official web page for the album and that features video clips

If “Bare” wins you over you will find all the links to buy the CD there. It’s a double disc with a “making of” Dvd and with current exchange rates my copy came in at around £16. The DVD is quite interesting but as all of the contributors are people working on the show who love it you don’t get a balanced perspective at all, but then again maybe it’s a show that everyone loves?


Anyway I hope this weeks column has piqued your interest, if any of you like the sound bites on the web be sure to let me know! It’s nice to have an opportunity to share this “best kept secret” with you all

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Hi!

I enjoyed reading your blog about the Musical Bare! Just wanted to let you know that Bare is having another NYC appearance at Pace University, April 22-26, 2009. My son David Piazza has the role of Peter. The music is amazing isn't it?

Gail Piazza